Practice in Public

That’s all this blog is. A daily practice, free for anyone to attend. Not that it needs spectators. But whoever wants to watch can. I’m just the guy doing sit-ups in the park. My reps may be blog posts, but the results are still plain for everyone to see.

You might not choose writing, but you too should practice in public.

In Munich, people dance in public. There’s a regular salsa class at Königsplatz. The hip hop kids hang out at the Pinakothek. When it comes to sports and exercise, we practice in public all the time, if only because the courts and gear we need are too large to fit into our houses.

When we start a business, we have no choice but to practice in public. Initially, the market may not pay much for our services, but with each gig, we can get better until, eventually, the whole world might want a piece of our delicious personal brand–pie.

Your job is something you practice in public. You can’t hide the second-quarter report from your boss because you don’t think it’s polished enough, can you? When the client calls, you better pick up the phone.

Wherever practicing in public is necessary, we don’t think twice about how our early, potentially clumsy efforts might be perceived. The publicity is just part of the deal. If I want to play tennis and do it well, I must accept that some people will see me while I am still a bloody beginner. If I’m not willing to do that, then I can’t learn how to play tennis. It’s that simple, and we are happy to play ball under these terms, pun intended.

Why can’t we do the same with art? Why is starting a Youtube channel a big deal? Why are teenage girls conceited if they make an Instagram and talk about makeup? Why do we think “poor schmuck” every time a coworker tells us he’s starting a personal blog?

Practicing in public does not mean you have to aspire to build an empire. You don’t think the guy doing sprints in the school yard is trying to beat Usain Bolt, do you? Then why must someone jumping on TikTok necessarily be desperate for attention? Why must a vlogger be arrogant or greedy?

You can practice mostly for fun even if you practice in public. Professionalism is not a requirement — although if professionalism is what you’re going for, that also is helped by practicing in public.

Art seems to be the one arena in which exposure isn’t a requirement to play, but that doesn’t mean the exposure won’t do what it does in all the other areas: help you improve. It’s much easier to take a few points of criticism on your painting to heart than it is to argue endlessly with yourself in your head about what to change. Even if you are the primary beneficiary of your art, aka you just like to make things and use them (or look at them), said beneficiary will still gain from the semi-publicness of your work.

For some reason, we think we need to be “good” in order to be allowed to reveal our art in public. But most of the time, nobody even knows what “good” means, and regardless, we can never get there if we don’t show the world our bad drafts first.

Art is like any job, sport, or business venture: You don’t need authority to do it, but if you want to get the absolute most from your pursuit, be it in meaning, satisfaction, or external rewards, you absolutely must practice in public. See you at the park!